Agriculture Ministry Warns Farmers to Stop Online Critiques

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A farmer in Battambang province walks through a flooded rice field in a photo posted to the Agriculture Ministry’s Facebook page on October 15, 2020.
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The Ministry of Agriculture has asked farmers in Battambang and Banteay Meanchey to refrain from criticizing the ministry for low crop prices on the grounds that it has already sent officials to resolve the issue.

The ministry released a statement on November 15 after it saw social media posts from farmers in the two provinces ruing the lack of intervention from officials to help farmers find fair market prices for their harvest.

These posts could cause fear among other farmers who were still harvesting their crop, said the ministry, and potentially further affect prices. It added that a surplus of rice stock at milling facilities had caused the prices to drop because mills were not procuring any more rice for now.

The ministry had sent two undersecretaries of state — Khy Kosal and Chhum Chhuly — to meet farmers and resolve the price-drop issue.

VOD saw farmers in Battamang’s Bavel district post a video showing their rice fields and claiming that no one was buying their harvest. The video was taken down Wednesday night, shortly after the ministry issued the statement.

Chan Soty, a farmer in Bavel district, said the price for rumdoul and malis rice — both high quality varieties — had dropped to 20 cents a kg. The low prices were affecting his income and ability to repay loans taken to fund his farming activities.

“The rice farmer cannot become rich if the price is based on another person’s mouth,” he said.

Nheb Sreyham, a farmer from Banteay Meanchey’s Svay Chek district, said she had spent around $2,160 to farm her seven-hectare plot of land and was unable to recoup her costs because of the low market prices. 

The low prices and high input costs were plaguing most in her village. “In my village, people only have rice farming as a career. Now, some have stopped already because they are under a lot of debt.”

Theng Savoeun, of farmer advocacy group Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community, said that the ministry should listen to farmers rather than prevent them from advocating for their better market prices. He said the government’s inability to facilitate better prices could cause farmers to stop cultivating crops.

New Agriculture Minister Dith Tina, who is the son of senior CPP official and Supreme Court chief justice Dith Munty, has vowed to solve issues plaguing the agriculture sector.

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